Attachment Parenting in shared custody

apm logoWe are in the midst of October, which happens to be Attachment Parenting Month,  and I am wondering what this year’s theme — “Cherishing Parents, Flourishing Children” — means to me?

As I sit with this question, I am reminded of the many times lately that I have found myself in conversations about how people sometimes assume that to practice Attachment Parenting means to give yourself up fully to your child: to exist only for the benefit, safety, love, health and security of your child, for all legal matters in regards custody check out now.

Upon learning about Attachment Parenting, I can see exactly why this is what people believe, since many of Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting seem different than what our mainstream culture has associated with parenting.

Now I could go into a long discussion about mainstream parenting, Attachment Parenting and how it all came to be, but what I want to focus on is how it might look like in my household and why cherishing the parent is vital so that children can flourish.

Let me begin by telling you that I am a mom who shares custody of my children with their father on a schedule that is as balanced as we could make it. We have been doing this for the past three years, and the time away from my kids is often extremely difficult but also provides an opportunity for me to heal and explore my interests.

I have friends who envy that I have alone time built into the week and other friends who cannot even imagine having days where they would not see their kids.

I also want to mention that my children are hitting the pre-teen years. Next summer, I will have one daughter who is officially a teen and another daughter who has hit double digits. They are growing fast, and I have to cherish all the time I have with them.

lisa fiertagWith everything that is going on in our lives, I know that I am doing the best I can with my girls.

I have beautiful children who are loving, kind and supportive. They engage in activities that interest them, even if I have to push a bit to get them to try something new. My girls have an awareness of who they are and a willingness to navigate more choices, along with the freedom to explore what they like and don’t like.

All of this is possible because their dad and I have encouraged this, no matter how difficult our lives became.

My children are flourishing.

There was a time when I didn’t believe this would be possible, as my family went through years of one crisis after another. We experienced separation and divorce, major life illnesses and the death of a grandparent. Even with all this stress, the one thing that kept us together was our commitment to parenting.

For me, it was a knowing that my girls might need a little extra time with each parent, so canceling activities that took us away from family was vital. Living in a way that allowed for flexibility was also important, as it is not always known what might emotionally set off any one of us. Having stability in these little ways was important.

My girls know that they can be with me, when needed, at any time day or night even if they are with their dad and vice versa. As my girls have grown older, there are times when I know they need to be closer to me and times when a little freedom is desired, which is all part of the flow.

I have found that parenting does not necessarily get easier as our children grow older, but it is different each and every day.

Cherishing myself, as a parent, does help to make things smoother.

When I am not with my girls, I am engaging in activities that help me grow. I tend to spend my time exploring interests that feed my spirit or allow me to relax. Sometimes I just want to sit on my couch in silence and do absolutely nothing.

This all helps me as a parent. When we cherish ourselves and allow for balance in our daily routines, we are creating security and may thrive from these experiences.

As we cherish our time, our individualism and our interests, we grow. As we grow, we become secure parents who are able to be with our children throughout the worst and the best of times. As we cherish our minds, bodies and souls in whatever way calls to us, we are creating and opening space that allows our children to flourish.

What did you do today to cherishing yourself so that your children may flourish?

Cherishing our API Leaders

By Kathryn Abbott, API Leader and editor of the Connections blog for API Leaders

Kathryn Abbott FamilyWhen thinking about this year’s Attachment Parenting (AP) Month theme — “Cherishing Parents, Flourishing Children” — I wanted to be sure I really understood the meaning of “cherish” and “flourish.” I love the sound of those words, but what do they really mean?

“Cherish” is a verb that, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, means: to hold dear; to feel or show affection for; to keep or cultivate with care and affection; to entertain or harbor in the mind deeply and resolutely.

We when are cherished we feel secure. We are able to regulate our emotions and our behavior. Our value is recognized by others, and we are able to give of ourselves more fully — because we are supported.

“Flourish,” also a verb, is defined by Merriam-Webster as: to grow well; to be healthy; to be very successful; to do very well.

We can flourish when our attachment needs are met. When our attachment needs are met, we are able to be joyful and empathic. Our family is strong, and compassion is brought into the world.

These concepts of cherish and flourish are easy to write about, but for many parents knowing what to do and actually being able to do those things are a daily struggle.

All parents everywhere need support, need to be cherished, to realize their full potential as parents and help their children flourish. The difference that API Leaders make within their communities is immeasurable. The support they provide in cherishing parents each month may be the one thing that makes the difference.

apm logoSo in honor of AP Month, API Leaders, please grab yourself a cup of tea (or other relaxing beverage) and receive a little cherishing yourself…

Thank you, API Leaders, for making a difference within your own family and within the circle of your community. Each day, you are making an incredible difference, with passion, within your own family and within the families of your community. This is no small feat.

Your contribution to Attachment Parenting International (API) and to the AP community is so valuable, that we simply would not be here without you. Please know in your heart, API Leaders, that your commitment to the mission of API is what sustains all of us in our endeavors to support parents in raising children who flourish, and that, ultimately will change this world.

You are changing the world, one family at a time. Please keep doing it. You are so brave, so caring, so loved. Thank you.

Editor’s Pick: AP Month on “Flourishing Parents”

“Are your children flourishing? Are you flourishing?”~ “Children Flourishing” on AP Month 2014

apm logoThese are poignant questions, particularly the second one.

I think we, as parents, often ask ourselves whether we feel our children are doing OK. Especially those of us involved in Attachment Parenting (AP) closely monitor this in our children and make adjustments accordingly so that our children can flourish.

But we are less likely to ask ourselves if we are doing OK.

It may be that we assume we are flourishing if our children are. Parenting is so personal, and by our very biology, much of our own self-worth can be tied into how well we feel our children are doing.

It may be that we feel selfish or guilty if we feel that we are not flourishing alongside our children — if we are feeling burnt out, if we feel that our life balance is off.

We may fear that if we take a bit of “me” time that our children will suffer, since they won’t be getting all of our attention.

Because many of us grew up in families that did not practice Attachment Parenting, we are still getting a feel for what a good balance is. Some of us may wish to give our children more attention than we had growing up, and so we may be timid to give ourselves more “me” time because it feels like we may be taking too much.

And it can take a while for parents to feel confident in their parenting approach, so that they are able to feel better about taking “me” time.

Or perhaps your children are at ages or stages that makes it difficult to take “me” time.

There may be another reason why you’re reluctant to make changes so that you feel that you’re flourishing, but balance a critical part of Attachment Parenting. If you’re dealing with burn-out or trying to figure out how to gain more life balance, reading Attachment Parenting International’s Eighth Principle of Parenting: Strive for Personal and Family Balance can give you some ideas to get started on adding more “me” time to your life and start you back on the path of flourishing.

So, how do you know if you and your children are flourishing? Check out the list on AP Month’s “Children Flourishing” post, but here’s one that I think sums it up nicely: “Living on a trajectory of decreasing fear and increasing love in self and others.”

API post-conference: Who is Kate Frederick?

kate frederickKate Frederick.

She wasn’t a speaker at Attachment Parenting International‘s 2014 conference. She wasn’t even in the audience. But her name is stuck in my head.

As a bonus for early conference attendees, API hosted a showing of “The Milky Way” film on the evening before the weekend “Cherished Parents, Flourishing Children” conference at Notre Dame University at the end of September. As an added bonus, the lactation consultants behind the film, Chantal Molnar and Jennifer Davidson, were available for Q&A.

And during that Q&A, the name “Kate Frederick” became part of the conversation.

In the film, Kate’s part was just a brief glimpse of a 2013 newspaper article about a mother being fired from her job for breastfeeding. Her name wasn’t mentioned in the film, just a reference to the many mothers who have been discriminated against because of their choice to breastfeed.

But after several showings of “The Milky Way” film, Chantal and Jennifer received a letter that was different than other notes of support. This one was from Kate, who identified herself as an API member from New Hampshire, USA, and the woman about whom the article featured in the film for maybe a couple seconds is about.

Kate was a child support officer for the state Department of Health and Human Services at the time of her job termination due to failed negotiations with her employer regarding her right to breastfeed and her desire to leave the workplace to breastfeed during breaks.

She is now an event planner and has since founded The Rustik Baby Project, through which she advocates for breastfeeding mothers’ rights. Among her projects is a New Hampshire legislative bill that would provide greater protections to breastfeeding mothers.

It is exciting to think of what Kate’s hard work — borne of a passion ignited because of a low point in her life when she refused to give up on what was her biological right — has the potential to give all of us.

Of course, Kate — like any of us — is just one person. And each person can only do so much. But think about what amazing things all of us working together can do!

Some names, like William Sears or Ina May Gaskin, are household names in our Attachment Parenting (AP) communities. And these AP “celebrities” have done so much for the Attachment Parenting movement. But there are so many people whose names we don’t so readily know, or names we may never know — people who are all doing their own little part in their communities, even if only in their homes, to make the world a more compassionate place for their children and future generations.

Kate Frederick is one of those names that we might not otherwise know, but a person who is doing great things in her own little corner of the world — things that when added up with all of our efforts are changing culture.

Every one of us could be Kate Frederick.

12 alternatives to spanking and timeout

apm logoBy Ariadne Brill, Positive Parenting Connection

Editor’s note: This post, which was referenced during the 2014 API Conference, was originally published as part of the 2013 AP Month. It carries an always-timely message for parents seeking alternatives to spanking, time-out and other punishment-based discipline techniques.

Coverage of the conference continues all October during the 2014 AP Month, during which we also welcome your submissions to the 2014 AP Month Blogging event.

If you have read about the benefits of skipping spanking and time-out in favor of other ways to guide children but are not sure where to start, here are 12 alternatives that give parents and children a chance to address choices and situations with the intention to offer guidance while maintaining a positive, respectful and peaceful connection.

These alternatives are mostly geared toward children ages 1-6 but work well beyond that, too:

  1. Take a break together — The key is to do this together and before things get out of hand. So if your child is having a difficult time or making unsafe choices like hitting a playmate, find a quiet space to take a break together. Just five minutes of connection, listening to what your child is feeling and talking about more appropriate choices really helps. This is similar to a time-in.
  2. Give a second chance — Ever made a mistake and felt so relieved to have a chance at a do-over? Often letting children try again lets them address the problem or change their behavior. “I can’t let you put glue all over the table. Do you want to try this again on paper?”
  3. Problem-solve together — If there is a problem and your child is acting out of frustration, giving him a chance to talk about the problem and listening to a solution he has can turn things around for the better.
  4. Ask questions — Sometimes children do things but we don’t quite get it.  We might assume incorrectly they are doing something “bad” or “naughty” when, in fact, they are trying to understand how something works. Ask what they are up to with the intent to listen and understand first, then correct them by providing the appropriate outlet or information that is missing. So try, “What are you trying to do?” instead of, “Why in the world…ugh!!! Time out!”
  5. Read a story — Another great way to help children understand how to make better choices is by reading stories with characters that are making mistakes, having big feelings or needing help to make better choices. Also, reading together can be a really positive way to reconnect and direct our attention to our child.
  6. Teach through puppets and play — Young children love to see puppets or dolls come to life to teach positive lessons. “I’m Honey Bear, and oh, it looks like you scribbled crayons on the ground. I’m flying to the kitchen to get a sponge for us to clean it up together. Come along!” After cleaning up together, “Oh, now let’s fetch some paper, and will you color me a picnic on the paper? Paper is for coloring with crayons!”
  7. Give two choices — Let’s say your child is doing something completely unacceptable. Provide her with two alternatives that are safe, respectful and acceptable, and let her choose what she will do from there. By receiving two choices, the child can keep some control over her decisions while still learning about boundaries.
  8. Listen to a song — Sometimes taking a fun break to release some tension and connect is all that children need to return to making better choices and all that parents need to loosen up a bit and let go of some stress. Listen to a song or take a dance break!
  9. Go outside — Changing locations often gives us parents a chance to redirect behavior to something more appropriate. “I cannot let you scale the bookshelf. You CAN climb on the monkey bars. Let’s go outside and practice that instead!” Or, “Cutting the carpet with the scissors is not acceptable. Let’s go outside and cut some grass.”
  10. 1386612_mom_and_kidBreathe — A big, deep breath for both parents and children can really help us calm down and look at what is going on with a new perspective. Take a big “lion” breath to get out frustrations or short and quick “bunny” breaths to feel calm and re-energized.
  11. Draw a picture — A wonderful way for children to talk about mistakes is to make a picture of what they did or could have done differently. It’s a low-key way to open a window for talking to each other about making better choices.
  12. Create a chill-out space — For a time-out to work, it needs to be something that helps everyone calm down, not something that makes children frightened or scared. A chill-out space is an area where children can go sit and think, tinker with some quiet toys, and have some space alone until they feel ready to talk or return to being with others. Using the chill-out space should be offered as a choice and not a command.

Every child and every situation is unique, so these tools are not one-size-fits-all but rather a list of ideas to lean on to expand your parenting toolbox. I find that striving to use proactive tools like these to respond to and to guide children towards better choices works far more positively than having to react when things have gotten out of hand.

Editor’s note: Many parents, especially when moving away from spanking, can have a difficult time viewing discipline in terms of not punishing but rather teaching. It can take a great leap of faith that positive, non-punitive discipline can work — and work really well! It’s important for parents just getting started with positive discipline to realize that the motivation behind spanking (to punish) and positive discipline (to teach) are very different, even if they have the same intended result. Learn more about the differences through API’s principle to Practice Positive Discipline.

It may help to think of spanking as a way to get the child’s immediate attention and to begin by substituting another behavior, such as clapping, for spanking to get the child’s attention before doing the positive discipline exercise. Ideas like this can help redirect your physical reflex.

When getting started with positive discipline, especially if you are just beginning to move away from spanking, it can be helpful to imagine various scenarios ahead of time and how you could react to them in using positive discipline versus spanking. For example, before entering a room where your child is supposed to be drawing with crayons on paper, you could imagine finding your child drawing on the wall and run through ideas in your mind of how you could react in a way other than reflexively spanking. It’s important for your child to know that drawing on the wall is not OK by firmly saying so, but then follow up with a positive discipline technique such as problem-solving.

Of course, it’s not always possible to be proactive. When anger catches you off-guard, try to take a break yourself. Apologies for our behavior, as parents, can go a long way to heal relationships with our children while also modeling what we’d like to see in our children.

It can also help to understand that positive discipline works best when the parent and child have a secure attachment. If your child seems to ignore your attempts at non-punitive discipline, continue trying it out while simultaneously improving your connection. Find ideas through API’s Eight Principles of Parenting.

Keep in mind, if you’re trying to shift away from spanking, you’re not the first person to do it — even API’s cofounders struggled with learning how to discipline without spanking at first. You can find support through local API Support Groups, the API Warmline or the API Neighborhood online forums.

Editor’s Pick: AP Month on “Celebrating Family”

“That’s what Attachment Parenting International is trying to do – to change culture from one that ignores the critical importance of attachment to one that embraces the normality of healthy family relationships, securely attached children and connected communities.” ~2014 Conference: Life Giving, Mindful Beginnings” on APtly Said

API-Logo-20th-themeHaving just arrived home from API and Notre Dame University’s 2014 conference in South Bend, Indiana, USA, my head is spinning with all that was shared by researchers and experts in the Attachment Parenting (AP) field.

It was a wonderful way to celebrate API‘s 20th Anniversary with some really special bonus events, like Friday night’s showing of “The Milky Way” film with live Q&A with the lactation consultants who produced the documentary on the U.S. cultural view of breastfeeding support as well as Saturday night’s anniversary celebration reception with Irish music provided by Kennedy’s Kitchen.

george holden on positive parenting at the 2014 conferenceI am only sorry that I had to duck out early due to health reasons. But, like many of you, I have been keeping up on the final days of the conference via API’s Facebook page. I would have loved to have been there when George Holden, a psychologist and parenting expert at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, USA, made the comment how “Attachment Parenting International is one of the largest positive parenting organizations in the world.”

For those who were unable to attend the conference — as well as for those who, like me, did attend but were blown away by the amount of really great information — API is planning to release video of the speakers at “Cherishing Parents, Flourishing Children” portion of the conference in a few weeks.

apm logoIn the mean time, I would like to point you to AP Month. Every year, during the month of October, API and this year’s sponsors — Peter Haiman, Kindred, Ergobaby, Tummy Calm/Colic Calm and Lamaze International — challenge parents to re-examine their daily activities, routines, beliefs, habits and traditions and learn new ways to engage with their children to grow with each other and remain close while promoting opportunities for healthy exploration, individuation and development.

This year’s AP Month, which begins today, centers on the same theme as API’s portion of the 2014 conference: “Cherishing Parents, Flourishing Children.” You can follow along each day of October on 2014 AP Month Calendar.

You can also participate in the 2014 AP Month blogging and photo events, read the research supporting this year’s theme and watch for special activities in other API resources, including here on APtly Said and API’s Facebook page.

Happy Attachment Parenting Month, everyone!

2014 Conference: Life Giving, Mindful Beginnings

darcia“Attachment is not only a benefit to kids but is the gateway, the whole gateway. But its a complicated topic.” ~ Lu Hanessian, API Advisory Board and speaker at the 2014 API Conference

So let’s get the conversation rolling.

I’m here at the 2014 Attachment Parenting International conference, “Pathways to Child Flourishing,” at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana, USA. It is amazing and humbling to be in the presence, the audience, of these speakers. It’s mind blowing.

In the first session, this morning, we heard from Lu Hanessian, author, educator and founder of WYSH; Darcia Narvaez, psychology researcher at Notre Dame and co-coordinator for this conference; Kathy Kendall-Tackett, psychologist and founder of Praeclarus Press; and Lysa Parker, founder of API. Peggy O’Mara, longtime editor of Mothering, founder of and founder of, was unable to come due to the widespread flight cancellations yesterday.

Darcia opened this first session, “Life Giving: Mindful Beginnings,” with a very interesting introduction to her new book, Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality, particularly the early body-mind co-construction of the infant by caregivers.

She talked about how the human infant is born really 9-18 months too early, compared to other animals. And that for most of our time on earth, secure attachment has been essential to our survival as mankind.

Those survival tools have been: nurturing touch, sensitive response, breastfeeding through toddlerhood, alloparenting (raising children in a community with multiple trusted caregivers), free play (especially with multi-age peer group), positive social support (the feeling of being wanted) and soothing perinatal experiences.

Through these experiences, children developed not only secure attachment and healthy family relationships, but also exceptional right brain development. Well, I shouldn’t say “exceptional,” because in reality, the results of Attachment Parenting are normal.

What is the right brain responsible for? Self-regulation, introsubjectivity and social pleasure, emotional intelligence, empathy beingness, self trancendance, higher consciousness.

And in normal human development, these right-brain features are able to control our brain’s survival systems, which include stress response. For many in Western society, however, as infants, they are exposed to toxic stress such as long-term mother-baby separation or insensitive response. As a response, the brain’s stress response takes over the mind.

“What you’re left with is this very self-protected, easily stressed brain. It changes development,” Darcia continued.

And it changes culture. It’s a closed loop, actually, so that our childrearing practices dictates culture and our culture dictates childrearing. And that’s why much of the Western culture is competitive, self-contained, autonomous and disconnected rather than the connected communities that healthy right brain development promotes.

That’s what Attachment Parenting International is trying to do — to change culture from one that ignores the critical importance of attachment to one that embraces the normality of healthy family relationships, securely attached children and connected communities.

“We’re all trying to get back on track,” as Darcia concluded.

Yes, we are — one family at a time.



2014 Conference: The Milky Way

milky wayThis has been seven years in the making.

I had seen “The Milky Way” film before during a local 2014 World Breastfeeding Week event. It was powerful then, and it was no less powerful this second time around, here in South Bend, Indiana, USA, at Notre Dame University at the 2014 Attachment Parenting International conference, “Pathways to Child Flourishing.”

This time around, the producers of the film were available for discussion: Chantal Molnar and Jennifer Davidson. And that’s where I learned that it took seven — SEVEN — years for them to make their film, “The Milky Way.” During that time, Attachment Parenting has really come into its own as far as the national conversation goes…here in the United States.

We seem to be at a tipping point. There are so many people — parents and non-parents even, professionals within parent support and beyond — who are joining the Attachment Parenting movement, and the Western culture seems ripe for questioning the status quo.

The purpose behind making “The Milky Way” film is to help change the world. I believe that it could, that it is. It is getting people talking, helping members of Western society to reframe their minds around what’s supposed to be normal about infant development specific to breastfeeding.

It is empowering women to advocate for themselves. And that can change the world, one mother, one baby, at a time.

During the discussion afterwards, audience members — parents just like you and me — had the opportunity to ask questions. There was much discussion about the varying experience levels and approaches to breastfeeding support by lactation professionals, the milk bank movement, what advocacy work is happening that can help working breastfeeding moms, exactly how little medical students learn about breastfeeding in med school and the amazing things that countries beyond the United States — like Germany and Sweden — are doing to promote secure attachment from even before birth.

My husband, after watching the film and attending the discussion at the conference, said we should move from the United States to Sweden. I have to admit, it’s tempting.

It was a great start to the conference.


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